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Legally Blonde

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Legally Blonde

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair
Director: Robert Luketic
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: July 2001
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Ali Larter, Luke Wilson, Holland Taylor, Matthew Davis, Linda Cardellini, Victor Garber, Alanna Ubach, Oz Perkins, Jennifer Coolidge

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

People who are against affirmative action and quotas--generally, but not exclusively, those of a conservative bent-- like to say that so many people are considered minorities that those who are covered by this legal umbrella make up 80% of the population. I suppose their case can be strengthened when liberals say that blonde women are an oppressed group also, i.e. that so many employers and others in authority consider flaxen-haired women to be bimbos that they will refuse to hire them or admit them to the better schools. Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) opens Robert Luketic's movie, "Legally Blonde," as a perfect fit for this stereotype. Her hair is canary-yellow, she dresses in bright, pastel colors (mimicked by the pink pigments in the opening credits), she attends a secondary school majoring in fashion rather than one that affords rigorous academic preparation. Her parents, who think little of law as a profession, discourage her from thoughts of pursuing that field, but then again Elle suggests the possibilities of her attending embarking on legal training only because her steady boy friend Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis) breaks up with her because he considers her too frivolous: he intends to become a U.S. senator by age 30 and needs a sharp, intelligent woman on his arm to improve his quest for political fame.

Robert Luketic, who directs "Legally Blonde" from a script by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, is firmly within "Clueless" territory, with the wonderful Reese Witherspoon in the role taken by Alicia Silverstone in Amy Heckerling's 1995 comedy about Beverly Hills high school teens of the 1990's. Just as Silverstone's character is named Cher after the celebrated actress, Witherspoon has been christened Elle after the women's fashion magazine, while the film emulates "Clueless" in being satirical, charming, and never mean. This in itself is a triumph in a movie opening a week or so after the abominably vulgar and unfunny "Scary Movie 2," and if Luketic's picture brings in the kind of box office that it anticipates, Witherspoon in the role of a budding lawyer would supply evidence that a light comedy these days need not be patently offensive to succeed.

Though "Legally Blonde" is nothing if not predictable, the film sustains a lighter-than-air mood, filled with both amiable sitcomish jokes and an altogether screwball ambiance. Opening inside the Delta Nu sorority house where Elle is eagerly anticipating a proposal from the rich boy friend she loves, the picture quickly presents a female scorned, as the usually spirited blonde drips mascara after being jilted by her beau. Determined to become "good enough" for the man who considers her just plain not smart, she succeeds in cracking the Law Aps, gets into Harvard, and after standing out from the crowd, a pretty-in-pink student amid a chorus of earnest and competitive scholars, she becomes reflective for the first time in her life as she turns from cracking up her classmates to cracking the law books with earnest. Selected as an intern to her professor (Victor Garber)--for the wrong reasons as we soon find out--Elle winds up defending a woman accused of murdering her wealthy husband by using the very knowledge she had acquired back in her days at the fashion institute.

"Legally Blonde" would not have succeeded as it does without Reese Witherspoon in the lead, in virtually every scene, standing in as a role model who effectively uses her less-than-accredited training to turn the tables on her more conventional colleagues and on one randy instructor. Harvard Law School obtains a product placement that it scarcely needs given the ratio of applications to acceptances, while the film's production team garners laurels partly for its exhibition of feminist empowerment, partly for cleansing the bad taste that preceded its opening in the form of Keenen Ivory Wayans' exploration of a new low in adolescent cinema.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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